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Housing Board meets after voters approve funding for affordables

The Community Housing Board was all business at the Nov. 17 meeting, barely mentioning relief and joy at the passage of the 0.5% real estate transfer tax on new home buyers that will provide funds to create affordable housing.

“I’m really excited that it passed,” Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley said when asked to comment on the passage of the ballot proposition, which squeezed by with a margin of 15 votes. She said she’s mindful of how close the vote was, and pledged to continue to operate in a transparent manner, to provide information to the community as it’s gathered.

The housing plan must be adopted before any money from the Community Housing Fund can be used, and any project will be fully vetted to meet environmental requirements. The public will have ample opportunities, members said, to comment on proposals for new structures and requirements they want to see implemented regarding units to be created on existing private properties.

It’s clear to the CHB that rental units are preferred and, where possible, they should be in existing buildings, such as over stores or as accessory apartments in houses, or in accessory buildings.

The CHB plans to create a pamphlet to be distributed to explain how property owners willing to provide housing could benefit. If they seek any funding to adapt their structures to accommodate renters, they will have to agree to charge rents set by Suffolk County and to maintain those units for a specific period of time. In other words, a property owner wouldn’t be able to take the money and then overcharge renters, or quickly drop out of the program. They also would likely have to choose tenants from a list of those who qualify financially for affordable apartments.

The next step for the group is to reach out to East Hampton and Southampton officials for guidance.  Those towns have active Housing Authorities to manage properties.

Members at the meeting were clear that rentals to be built on the Island could be a unit that from the outside looks like a large house, but inside could have four to six rental units. Ms. Hanley also planned to speak to officials at the Long Island Housing Partnership, an organization that has worked in many communities to create affordable housing.